Lotus Garden aka Heaven on Earth

It’s hard to find consistently great food, especially in Miami.  Located on Miracle Mile, this place is simply awesome. Small, unassuming, always busy enough to reassure you that you came to the right place, but never too busy to make you wait for a table.  As someone who rarely likes to visit the same restaurant twice, I’ve eaten here a lot. It’s become a process.  I’ll go to Lotus, get my fix, feel satisfied, then days will go by and I’ll start salivating at the thought of the panang curry, pad thai, chicken satay, and their infamous peanut sauce.  I’ve become Pavlov’s dog.  This is serious food. No heavy, deeply fried, over-sweet sauce.  Just pure, fresh, can’t put my fork down flavor. Stef, forgive me, but this, my friends, is Flavor-town, and Lotus is the mayor.  Every time I come in, I’m welcomed by the same nice man, nod to the little cat clock waiving at the entering customers, stare at the fish tank, and pray that my waiter will hurry up so I can start drinking the peanut sauce.

The chicken satay (or beef) skewers are brought to the table on a flaming black pot.  I appreciate this little touch because it allows me to crisp up the chicken a bit, just the way I like it.  Its accompanied by cucumber kimchi: tangy, fresh, vinegar-y, and crunchy. And then, the peanut sauce. I don’t know what is in it, I can imagine peanut butter, soy sauce, sesame oil…but I usually stop thinking and start eating. It’s creamy, sweet, salty, thick, smoky..I’m actually drooling as I write this.  I order it on everything. The peanut sauce is also tossed with tofu, peanuts, and cilantro in Lotus’ lettuce wraps.  Even my carnivorous boyfriend enjoyed the tofu lettuce wraps smothered in peanut sauce. (no pictures of the lettuce wraps because they were devoured before I even remembered to grab my camera.)

I always get the panang curry, and Mike either gets pad thai or volcano chicken (I tend to yell “no!” when he tries to order Massaman curry, too similar to panang and c’mon people, we need to diversify!!) The panang is like nothing ever I’ve eaten.  Rich, light, sweet, savory.  Its an epicurean paradox.  The tiny green peas, vibrant red peppers, and crispy tofu arrive doing the backstroke in my panang curry.  They poke out of the bowl as if to say “Please don’t eat me yet I’m not done basking in this yummy sauce.” So I don’t, who am I to deprive the little julienned veggies of their time in the panang pool? However, once the brown rice gets there, I get down to business, making sure I get one (or 6) of everything on my place, topped with enough sauce to last me through the rice.  I wish you could taste it right now so we could stare at each other in disbelief, wondering who is the mystery person in the kitchen putting out food like this. Personally, I picture a 90-year-old Thai woman using a 200-year-old recipe from memory.

The volcano chicken, also insanely tasty, arrived steaming and full of color.  The chicken was lightly fried and coated with a sweet and spicy sauce, none of this neon orange sweet-and-sour sauce from a takeout carton.  Broccoli, crisp peppers, and whole basil leaves sat atop the saucy chicken.  I think I neglected my curry when this got to the table, quickly apologized to it, and resumed my curry feast.  After every bite I looked at Mike, smiled and made “mmmm” sounds, and continued munching.

PLEASE GO HERE. Seriously, this place is unreal. Eating tons of food this flavorful without the heavy, overly-full feeling is priceless, or, in my case, $48.  The prices are reasonable, service exceptional, and food the best I’ve ever had.

-Shari

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